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Dennis Andress

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Dennis Andress

There’s probably only a few here that remember, or know of, the first Gunison rally. My wife, Laney, was there, on crutches. I joined the board a couple of years later in 2003. Laney and I were married at fall Torrey in 2007. Okay, that’s enough history for noobs.

 

Two years ago Laney was diagnosed with HER2+ breast cancer. A couple three surgeries, radiation, and a year of chemo later and the oncologist said there was a 10% chance of the cancer reoccurring, within the next 10 years. (Required reading: XKCD: Lanes). At the end of that year Laney and I picked up our lives where we had left them and continued working to sell our house in Port Orchard, Washington.

 

Yet, last summer, about the time Laney was almost done with chemo, I noticed that she was holding her left arm and shoulder in an awkward position and that she tended to drag her left leg when walking. I think I may have even mentioned it to her oncologist. Over the next six months or so there was a gradual increase in symptoms affecting her left side. Until one day Laney’s left leg buckled and she fell, fracturing her left elbow. Which got us to a Neurologist and multiple brain MRIs.

 

The last few months haven’t been fun. We can fast forward to a couple of weeks ago. As per the oncologist Laney was tapering off the heavy steroids she on when the symptoms got much worse; Laney could no longer stand without someone holding her, and I had to unpack the stupid little wheel chair I was told to buy. A needle biopsy of the brain was done Thursday, July 16. Today we learned the results. Laney has glioblastoma, a cancer of the brain unrelated to the breast cancer she had. It can be treated and it’s symptoms reduced, but it can not be cured. Median live expectancy after radiation and chemo is 15 to 16 months. While it’s likely radiation and chemo will reduce her symptoms there’s no way to know how much. Maybe she’ll be able to walk with a cane again. Maybe she’ll be able to do even better. Maybe not.

 

So Laney and I are trying to understand just how good life would have to be to make a few more months enjoyable. Is living in a wheel chair enough? Or should being able to drive, maybe even ride a bike be the goal? I’m sure there are some of you who have been where we are, would you tell us about it? But, what I’d really like to read, is your thoughts about what you, and your spouse, would accept. Think about it for a day or two if you want, talk to your spouse, and please help us out.

 

We are not looking for I’m sorry.

 

 

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I cannot contain an I'm sorry.  I am so very sorry to hear this.  It's crushing news.   Big hugs to you both, and much love.

 

On to responding to your request  (which is difficult after reading this), and forgive me if it is in-eloquent.   My Father-in-law and a very close co-worker had glioblastomas. They, prompted by their doctors and nurses, fought it every step of the way until the end.  Your timing was exactly our experience.  For my FIL, I went to every medical appointment he had.  He had a resection, then radiation, then chemo.  We were told each treatment was worth about 2-3 months of additional time.  Unbelievable, surreal news at the time, and I am feeling it again now.  My baby sister is dealing with a cancer that will never go away, (Multple myeloma) and I lost two older brothers to cancer.  Cancer fucking sucks.  

 

Given my observations of the fight my FIL went through, I remember thinking that had he known how difficult his last year would be, I doubt he would have elected to go through the treatments.  I believe, given another chance, he would have waived it all off.  He was a top-of-his-class graduate at West Point, and a decorated Vietnam vet (Psyops) and one mean, tough SOB.   No, I am sure he would have preferred to ignore the medical community's advice which is to fight at all costs.  For my co-worker, a completely different experience, and a bit more time.  I am not as familiar with the details of her treatment, just her fight.  She was in her early 60s, quite fit from cycling, very active, and kept in great communication with a small circle of friends.  She was so upbeat, happy, resigned to her fate, shared great and promising news, and said a big "oh well" to the disappointments.  She was so classy.

 

This is a no help response.  You never know and cannot predict the path before you.  The big difference that I have observed between the two is my Father In Law lost his ability to laugh, and my friend Yvonne laughed all of the way to heaven.  I think that's what matters.

 

Jake

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This is heartbreaking to me. Every member of my immediate family has had or has cancer. The diagnosis is a sobering reminder of how fragile life really is. While my mother was fighting her battle I was directed to this book which suggests living during the time that we have left. Driving Miss Norma A different take on the fight with the big C. God bless you both and you and Laney are in my prayers. 
 

Linc G. 

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My mother in law had brain cancer. It's an awful disease and the effects thereof are just heart wrenching to watch. Enjoy the time you have together as best as you can. Find peace where you can. For me that would be in my faith but what you find could be vastly different. While I was not close to my wife's mother, it was tough on the whole family. I wish you and her all of the best.

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roadscholar

Too sad for sure really sorry to hear.Take a drive/ride in the car, put the top down, put the windows down, take a hat and a jacket. Take a picnic lunch, take the best roads, go fast, go slow, stop at overlooks, watch the sun set, tell stories, laugh, cry, take pictures..

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WOW!  I can't begin to understand all that you both are going through.  If you are asking how to enjoy what time she has left, only you two can answer that.  I would think spending as much time with each other and doing what you both once loved would be one solution.  Seeing old friends, making peace with yourselves, enjoying sunrises and sunsets with each other and living your lives to the fullest as best you can would be the choice.  If riding is a challenge and a risk, a side car may work, who knows, but you clearly would not want to put Laney or anyone else on the road at risk. My memory of Laney is of her getting on/in that K-Bike, fully loaded to ride back home.  She looked so tiny and packed in the bike.  

You are both in my prayers, enjoy every moment of every gifted day, and try not to let the disease define you until it does.  It has a way of doing that. 

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Dennis....as others have said, no words can capture the best we can wish for you.  I'll share my experience and the opinion I formed after watching my dad go through the same thing.  Time frame was similar.  Treatments were not.  They mostly treated with drugs and radiation.  They said surgery might risk other issues.  His last 9 months or so with the treatments were rough...really rough on him.  He was a WWll battleship vet.  Stoic, tough, quiet, reserved, etc.  

 

My opinion will be a bit unpopular and maybe not very comforting.  I've come to the conclusion when the outlook is terminal, then the treatments and efforts the patient goes through are largely for the survivors.  My dad told me near the very end he was going through the treatment for his family as he know thats what we wanted.  We held out hope, I took him to his treatments always thinking that tough old bird was going to kick it.  Had he not undergone treatment the outcome would have been the same, but would have happened maybe 6-7 months sooner.

 

There is no perfect answer.  My best advice is really...and I mean really....talk to your wife.  Ask her.  Then ask her why she is making the decision she is making.  Then follow her guidance.

 

I wish you all the best with the decision, the path you take, and all things good to you and your wife.

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Dennis Andress

Jake is on to something with laughter. Life without being able to laugh is not living. After reading the coments so far I remembered how much Laney smiled when we took the MIata to Torrey, and on local drives (Zion is but 40 miles away now). So I would add that being able to experience and enjoy nature matters. 

 

Skywagon was right on when he brought up the feeling that treatment is often for the survivors. I feel likewise. But Laney has had some cognative loss and I find myself more and more in charge of her life. We've been able to talk and agree on every decision so far, except this one, but I find myself leading the conversations. And that's a good example of why I asked ya'll to get your spouse's feelings.

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lawnchairboy

I am so sorry L & D.  I think Bill F. post above nails it.  

 

I so enjoy running across you both when our paths cross (and you both pass like meteors!).   

 

 

 

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TN_R11_Girl

Dennis,

 

I have a friend who nursed her relatively young boyfriend through glioblastomas ... he chose to fight it to the absolute end.  There were multiple brain operations; followed by short periods of exceptional physical recovery (including the ability to run a 5K race one Spring)  but ultimately, he seemed miserable --- wildly bloated from the steroids;  felt awful all the time.

 

My Dad died of metastasized colo-rectal cancer after "beating" a 6-mos. to live diagnosis.  The treatments were unkind to a man who had always been strong and healthy.  He was mortified by the indignities and embarrassed by the weakness and surgical scars and deterioration.  

 

Thinking of Laney, I think of her infectious smile and fierce (and surprisingly bone-crushing) hugs.  If she can't do those simple things for feeling awful from the treatments ... would she want to do the treatments?  

 

My heart goes out to you both.  

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Joe Frickin' Friday

Dennis -

 

So sorry for what you and Laney are going through.  If you haven't done so already, I highly recommend reading "Being Mortal" by Atul Gawande.  I started a thread about it a few years ago here.  It sounds like you're already trying to sort out when/how to make a decision to end treatment, which is one thing he talks about.  Another is discussing with Laney what she would want if/when she is no longer able to make decisions about her care, causing those decisions to fall to you.  If you arm yourself with knowledge of what she would want for herself, you'll be ready to make informed medical decisions for her that best reflect her interests, instead of guessing in the dark after she is no longer able to articulate what she wants.

 

In the final two years of my mom's life, she was afflicted with a degenerative neurological disease.  It wasn't ALS, but it had pretty much the same affect: there was no treatment possible, and it slowly robbed her of her mobility, dexterity, and even her fluency, while leaving her cognition pretty much intact.   Near the end of 2016, she could still shuffle around with a walker, do laundry, get dressed, shower, and feed herself.  In spite of her limitations, she still seemed to feel life was worth living at this point; she had enough autonomy, social engagement, and dignity.

 

Then she had a fall that broke a couple of ribs and a vertebra.  She ended up having kyphoplasty surgery to fix the vertebra, but a month of being bedridden, isolated, with severe pain, and possibly also the general anesthesia of the surgery, her condition took a quantum leap downward.  She healed without any pain, but was confined to a wheelchair after that; from then on she needed assistance dealing with incontinence and using the bathroom, showering, getting dressed, in/out of bed, and feeding.  Pretty much everything.  Her dexterity at that point was so shot that she couldn't even operate an electric wheelchair, which meant she couldn't get around at all without assistance.  In this condition she felt bereft of dignity and autonomy, and with things only expected to get worse, she decided that she'd had enough.  A few months later when doctors agreed that she probably had six months or less remaining, she began pursuing a physician-assisted death.  Within a few months she was approved,  and soon after died a peaceful death with her family present.

 

Bottom line, for my mom life had enough value as long as she had the ability to mostly take care of herself.  It certainly wasn't the only thing she needed - she also valued the companionship of friends and family - but it definitely was one thing she did not want to live without.  

 

Having said all that, I'll emphasize that that was just my mom.  Everyone is different, and so are the things that they feel make life worth living.  In the end, I gotta go with what Skywagon said:

 

3 hours ago, Skywagon said:

There is no perfect answer.  My best advice is really...and I mean really....talk to your wife.  Ask her.  Then ask her why she is making the decision she is making.  Then follow her guidance.

 

Hoping you are able to find some peace somewhere in all of this.  

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Click I Have To Praise You Like I Should

 

We've come a long long way together

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Through the hard times

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And the good

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I have to celebrate you baby, I have to praise you like I should

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You make me glad that I'm a woman

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Cause you're a feeling thinking man

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And anytime I know you're needing

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I'm going to please you every way I can

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You're so rare, so fine, I'm so glad you're mine

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I have to praise you like I should

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A tribute to a legendary BMWST Lady. You two set the bar pretty darn high! :thumbsup: 

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John Ranalletta
15 hours ago, Dennis Andress said:

There’s probably only a few here that remember, or know of, the first Gunison rally. My wife, Laney, was there, on crutches. I joined the board a couple of years later in 2003. Laney and I were married at fall Torrey in 2007. Okay, that’s enough history for noobs.

 

Two years ago Laney was diagnosed with HER2+ breast cancer. A couple three surgeries, radiation, and a year of chemo later and the oncologist said there was a 10% chance of the cancer reoccurring, within the next 10 years. (Required reading: XKCD: Lanes). At the end of that year Laney and I picked up our lives where we had left them and continued working to sell our house in Port Orchard, Washington.

 

Yet, last summer, about the time Laney was almost done with chemo, I noticed that she was holding her left arm and shoulder in an awkward position and that she tended to drag her left leg when walking. I think I may have even mentioned it to her oncologist. Over the next six months or so there was a gradual increase in symptoms affecting her left side. Until one day Laney’s left leg buckled and she fell, fracturing her left elbow. Which got us to a Neurologist and multiple brain MRIs.

 

The last few months haven’t been fun. We can fast forward to a couple of weeks ago. As per the oncologist Laney was tapering off the heavy steroids she on when the symptoms got much worse; Laney could no longer stand without someone holding her, and I had to unpack the stupid little wheel chair I was told to buy. A needle biopsy of the brain was done Thursday, July 16. Today we learned the results. Laney has glioblastoma, a cancer of the brain unrelated to the breast cancer she had. It can be treated and it’s symptoms reduced, but it can not be cured. Median live expectancy after radiation and chemo is 15 to 16 months. While it’s likely radiation and chemo will reduce her symptoms there’s no way to know how much. Maybe she’ll be able to walk with a cane again. Maybe she’ll be able to do even better. Maybe not.

 

So Laney and I are trying to understand just how good life would have to be to make a few more months enjoyable. Is living in a wheel chair enough? Or should being able to drive, maybe even ride a bike be the goal? I’m sure there are some of you who have been where we are, would you tell us about it? But, what I’d really like to read, is your thoughts about what you, and your spouse, would accept. Think about it for a day or two if you want, talk to your spouse, and please help us out.

 

We are not looking for I’m sorry.

 

 

 

 

Dennis & Laney,

 

Few have have such a lasting, positive impression on the culture of this group.

 

Best wishes,

 

John & Ruth

 

image.png.3bb5dd018d8fdba009771262e2144914.png

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5 hours ago, Skywagon said:

 

My opinion will be a bit unpopular and maybe not very comforting.  I've come to the conclusion when the outlook is terminal, then the treatments and efforts the patient goes through are largely for the survivors.  My dad told me near the very end he was going through the treatment for his family as he know thats what we wanted.  We held out hope, I took him to his treatments always thinking that tough old bird was going to kick it.  Had he not undergone treatment the outcome would have been the same, but would have happened maybe 6-7 months sooner.

 

 

I don't take on this cancer fight just for Dennis. He was there for round 1.  I know this round won't affect me as much which leads me to belive it will take less out of me. If I'm wrong, and quality of life is strongly comprmised,  I'll  quit. For now we'll both be able to judge if radiation will help restore lost strenngth and function That's the carrot we're both chasing.  

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22 hours ago, Dennis Andress said:

 

 

 

So Laney and I are trying to understand just how good life would have to be to make a few more months enjoyable. Is living in a wheel chair enough? Or should being able to drive, maybe even ride a bike be the goal? I’m sure there are some of you who have been where we are, would you tell us about it? But, what I’d really like to read, is your thoughts about what you, and your spouse, would accept. Think about it for a day or two if you want, talk to your spouse, and please help us out.

 

 

 

I'm new here, so I apologize if I'm sticking my nose in where it doesn't belong; this place is clearly a bit of a big family (as happens) and I'm not too good with the etiquette sometimes (ask my wife).

 

 

You can lead a happy life in a wheelchair, especially if you have a loving spouse to support you and he's ok doing the lift-n-carry. You can be able to ride full time with all the best farkle and be completely miserable. Are those things you list - driving, riding, etc - what really matter to you two? Oh sure they have an effect on quality of life, but that's like Sonya Lubomirski saying part of depression is genetic and part is attitude and part is circumstance; what you can and can't do physically's only a piece of the puzzle.

 

I recall one of my European friends, Uncle Fred. He was a sales rep for Fokker, flew all over the world selling planes, got his "start" by riding a Vespa through the Alps to Italy. In due course of life, he started having petit mal seizures and had to give up riding. He turned to gardening. Yet he kept his yellow R11S in his garage for his son. Life wasn't what it was, but he still led a pretty good life to the end.

 

Both my parents died of cancer (multiple myeloma - joys of living next to an Air Force base that turned into a Superfund site). Dad went first - which hit them both hard because they both expected her to go first. He hung on, for her - it was worth it to both of them. After he died, she effectively gave up, because he was her only real reason for living; not that she didn't love us, but she'd had a rough life with a lot of pain and we kids had our own lives. She didn't last the year, and we let her go.

 

My wife and I have had a few of these kinds of conversations over the past few years, consequences of a truck running over her leg after a pass gone wrong; 4 years now and her R still sits downstairs waiting for her - running fine now, thanks to dirtrider helping me get back into the spirit of motorcycle maintenance over the last couple months - soon as it cools off and she gets up enough gumption she's going to try it. Anyway. We have a couple red lines now... but since it's not immediate and pressing like it is for you two, we're still kinda vague.  We know what we'd do if what's happening to you happened to us. But as Joe said, that's us and what our lives are, not you and yours, and it's hard for me to see how our answers could help you because we're not you. Maybe I'm wrong. I dunno. I want to say you gotta dig real hard into why you get up in the morning in the first place, but that doesn't really seem to cover the matter, entirely.

 

I don't know if this helps or not, especially since I just pointedly avoided answering the proximal question. My prayers are with you both. Ain't easy.

 

 

(For what it's worth, you might consider Charlotte Joko Beck's "Nothing Special" as a take on coming to terms with pain and situations - but it's hard and won't be to everyone's taste. I still haven't truly digested it and it's been years.)

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Dennis Andress
10 hours ago, bacos said:

... I want to say you gotta dig real hard into why you get up in the morning in the first place, but that doesn't really seem to cover the matter, entirely....

 

Welcome to the family.  Were a pretty open and welcoming bunch. There's the very old thread "Monday Sucks" in Ride Tales, feel free to post pictures there.

 

The part of your post I quoted is subtle and important. Having a reason for each and every day and being able to reach for it matters a lot. Thank you.

 

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My wife's older sister died from it. First surgery and they said they got all of it. Second surgery she laughed and said at least her skull didn't grow back together and they could use the same opening.

 

She experienced aphasia.  

 

After the second surgery she chose to not have any further treatment. They lived life to the fullest until the end. The final few months were pain free and until the very end she was alert, cognizant and happy.

 

My observation is that whatever the course, your love for each other will be sufficient.

 

 

 

 

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Dennis, I'm glad you responded to Jake's ideas on laughter.  The few times I've been around you and Laney, I remember the camaraderie, banter, and love of life you both showed.  Keep doing what makes you both happy

.

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  • 3 weeks later...
Dennis Andress

Laney is more of a fighter than I ever realized. As I was pushing her in the door for her first radiation visit she said "I've been waiting months for this!" After her third visit we had to sit down and talk, eventually agreeing that her body is failing faster than the medicine can fix. She started hospice yesterday.

 

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Best wishes to you and Laney, Dennis. Hospice can be a wonderful method of improving the quality of life for those in that situation. It was great for my mom and for my father-in-law.

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On 7/23/2020 at 11:28 PM, Dennis Andress said:

We are not looking for I’m sorry.

 

 

I don't know how I missed this post until today, but I did. You won't get "I'm sorry" from me, but this sucks. Sometimes life isn't fair. My mother is approaching her 99th birthday, and for most of the past two years she had a wonderful caretaker, a woman about 40 who was a leukemia survivor, going to night school to become a physician's assistant, specializing in gerontology. She sent me this photo shortly after her last day of chemo on March 27:

 

Rebekah.thumb.png.b5fd3bc0030d2d5578ce629adf30e1a1.png

 

She collapsed about 6 weeks later, spent 3 weeks in the hospital, and was sent home to die. She died early last month. Thank goodness she sent me that wonderful photo.

 

 I'm going to link to two columns from the Washington Post that I read last month, both written by a woman named Donna Britt. They brightened my day considerably when I read them.

All I can suggest is that you and Laney live every day as if it is your last. You two are in the best position to decide how to do that.

 

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This news saddens us all. The greatest gift we can give is inspiring others and enriching their lives. Laney, you’ve done that in spades. 
 

Love and hugs....

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Joe Frickin' Friday
On 7/23/2020 at 11:28 PM, Dennis Andress said:

There’s probably only a few here that remember, or know of, the first Gunison rally. My wife, Laney, was there, on crutches.

 

Hell yeah, I remember.  

 

2002-07-first-unrally-46

 

Kinda stood out.  :grin:

 

9 hours ago, Mike said:

The greatest gift we can give is inspiring others and enriching their lives. Laney, you’ve done that in spades. 

 

And you rode like a girl the whole time.

 

2011-05-my-torrey-oddity-095

 

Ya done the girls proud.   Terribly sad to hear the latest news; as Mike said, you've inspired and enriched all of us ever since this board was established, and you will be dearly missed.  I hope you and Dennis are able to make the most of the time you've got left.

 

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  • 3 weeks later...

WOW, so sorry to learn this.  There is never a time when we are prepared for this, even if we see it coming.  Cherish your memories of Laney.  We all will do the same.  

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This is news I didn't want to hear, Dennis.

 

I am very saddened by it and I'll continue to pray for you and the remaining family/friends.

 

GodSpeed, Laney. --- you were one of a kind and had a gentle spirit and a constant smile.

 

We all will miss you.

 

Like wHIP says : Nothin' but Love...

 

 

 

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